Archives for January 2009

January Knitting

You have likely completely forgotten this, but one of my New Year’s resolutions was to get crafty. Last year I managed to complete 8 knitting projects. I was determined to do better this year.

So far things are going well. In the month of January I completed two projects. The Fern Glade hat, which I knit using some leftover Green Mountain Spinnery cotton comfort yarn. I enjoyed it, and I’m happy with the finished project, although I am forced to admit that given the size of my head I should have gone with the large.

Fern glade beret

I also used some very old yarn, made of recycled sari silk, to make a simple garter stitch scarf. I think it’s gorgeous, and so does Hannah. Even the cat loves it, she’s curled up on it sleeping right now.

Hannah models the silk scarf

My next project is the Amused sweater, and I’ve splurged on some rather lovely angora / merino blend to knit it in. So far I’m enjoying the project just because of the gorgeous yarn. I just went and checked, and it’s Aslan Trends Guanaco, in “Blue Jeans”.

You can keep up with all of my latest craft projects on flickr.

Things that Make me Happy

As I’ve mentioned many times, parenting is sort of the best of times and the worst of times. I love my kids, I adore them even, but sometimes they drive me completely crazy. I’m sure sometimes I drive them crazy, too. There’s more than enough crazy to go around in this world, after all.

And so, to remind myself that things are actually very good, I have created a list of happy thoughts. Why don’t you share some of yours, too?

Happy thoughts:
1. Fresh-baked bread.
2. The baby music teacher who nurses her toddler during class.
3. Footwear that fits Jacob’s chubby feet.
4. Leftovers that mean I don’t have to cook lunch today.
5. Picking Hannah up at daycare and hearing her say, “Please, Mom, just 5 more minutes.”
6. My children’s grandparents, who save my bacon on a regular basis.
7. A baby who smiles whenever he sees me.
8. A husband who does the laundry.
9. My daughter, playing in the snow.
10. Chocolate.
11. Internet streams of my favourite TV shows.
12. Neighbours who call to let us know that we forgot to close our garage door.

PS – The contest for the diaper bag closes at 6pm Pacific time (9pm Eastern) tomorrow. I realize this has dragged on for-freaking-ever, I promise any future giveaways will be shorter. For now, enter here!

Snowy Day

On Tuesday we had more snow in our neck of the woods. Mercifully it was just a light dusting, which had the decency not to stick around too long. Although piles of snow from back in December remain, so it looks much snowier than it actually has been.

Stuck at home alone with two children, I agreed to Hannah’s request that we go play outside. And we had a lovely time. Here are some of the photos I took of our adventures.


Mom and Jacob in the snow

Forlorn motorbike

Also, I’ve decided to join flickr. I am nothing if not a total joiner, way after everyone else has already jumped on something. You can find our latest family photos here. Or you can keep up-to-date with everything on my flickr photostream. I’m going to give it a try and if I like it, I will switch from our photo gallery. Oh, and if you’re on flickr too any tips and tricks would be great!

Rocking the Social Networking

Sometime ago I wrote about how I gave in and joined Facebook, like 140,000,000 other people have. It’s been over two months now, and for the most part I like it. I’m catching up with people I haven’t seen in almost 20 years in some cases. I’m getting to know others that I’ve never met in real life. There’s lots of cute baby pictures. All good stuff.

Following my success with Facebook I decided to join Twitter. If you’re on there, I’d love to have you follow me. My username is AmberStrocel (I know, how do I come up with these things?). I’ve set up my profile, I’ve been making updates, and I’ve been following lots of interesting folks. But it’s clear to me that Twitter is a whole different animal.

Facebook, as I see it, is mostly about individuals connecting. You make ‘friends’, and then you keep up with each other. You share photos and stories, Facebook lets you know when it’s someone’s birthday, that sort of stuff. For the most part it’s fairly personal. Most of the users don’t have other websites that they’ve listed, for example.

Twitter, on the other hand, seems to be very much about self-promotion. You’re sharing only text with each other, 140 character updates. Many or most seem to include someone’s blog post, a link to a product in their etsy shop, that sort of thing. All of the users list a website of some type or another. You can follow pretty much anyone, and they may or may not reciprocate. Most users don’t know each other in person, or at least I don’t know most of the people I’m following (or who are following me).

For me, rapidly coming up on my mid-30s, the social networking is sometimes all a bit much to absorb. What are the rules of etiquette? When do I reply vs. direct message vs. write on someone’s wall? What’s with all of the acronyms? What does being ‘Facebook friends’ really mean? And how come I can’t figure this out but my husband can? It must be the extra 4 1/2 months I’ve got on him rearing its ugly head. Whippersnapper.

I’m trying, though. I really am. I’m not sure that I always get it right, but at least I’m making the effort. And I’ve ‘met’ some pretty cool people. Just like I’ve ‘met’ some pretty cool people through blogging and commenting. Perhaps I can learn some new tricks, after all. But any crib sheets that you know of, so that I can avoid putting my virtual foot in my virtual mouth? Those would be appreciated. 😉

Mei Tai Love

I love my baby carriers. I’ve written recently about my affection for my ring sling. That is only one of my many carriers, though. I also have several pouch slings, another ring sling, three German woven wraps, a Baby Bjorn, and a Baby Buddha. But my absolute favourite, hands down, is the mei tai. I currently have 5, three I made myself, one Kozy, and one Freehand.


A mei tai, or Asian baby carrier, is loosely based on traditional Chinese carriers. It’s basically a square piece of fabric with 4 straps, 2 for the waist and 2 for the shoulders. The more modern North American variant has a longer body, often with padding, and sometimes has wider or padded shoulder straps.

So what makes the mei tai so great? I like that it distributes weight over both shoulders and across the back. Although ring and pouch slings can be worn with very large babies and small children, I personally found that once my babies hit 15 pounds or so, wearing them on one shoulder for long periods of time became uncomfortable.

I also like that the baby is snuggled in very close to you, instead of hanging like dead weight off your front. Compared to the more widely-available baby carriers, you can carry a much larger child more comfortably in a mei tai. Most are rated for children up to 35 lbs or so (my petite 4-year-old weighs in at just under 34). Also, you can wear your baby on your back, front or hip, whereas most Bjorn-style carriers allow only front carries. Putting a grabby baby on your back can really help you to get things done around the house.

Mei tais are also one size fits all. This means that multiple adults can use the same carrier, and there are no buckles to adjust every time. Plus, mei tais come in all sorts of cool and fun prints. If you really want a great selection of fabrics, I don’t think that you can beat Babyhawk. I don’t have one, but I love to visit and imagine.

A lot of these advantages also apply to a good woven wrap. While I do like my wraps, there is a definite learning curve associated with them. I found the mei tais to be nearly as versatile, and considerably easier to use. That’s just me, though.

If you are considering your baby carrier options, I really recommend The Baby Wearer website . They have all sorts of articles and reviews to help you choose. There are also instructions for every type of baby carrier imaginable. And if you become a member you can find lots of affordable second-hand baby carriers (or sell your old ones) on their For Sale or Trade boards. It’s a goldmine of support and information.

Happy Babywearing!

Adoption, Surrogacy, and Maternity Leave

It’s Mat Leave Monday! Today I’m talking about Canadian maternity and parental leave, and how it works in adoption, surrogacy, and other ‘special cases’. I touched on all of this briefly in my original post about Canadian Maternity Leave, but today I will go into much greater detail.

In Canada, what we popularly refer to as ‘maternity leave’ is actually a combination of 15 weeks of paid maternity leave, and 35 weeks of paid parental leave. The big distinction is that to qualify for maternity leave, you must have given birth to a baby. Period. This means that adoptive parents do not qualify for maternity leave, nor do those who use surrogate mothers.

One adoptive mother challenged this rule, taking her case against the Canada Employment Insurance Commission to the Federal Court of Appeal. In 2007 she lost her challenge, and in 2008 the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear her case. So the rules remain as they are.

What are the grounds for restricting maternity leave to birth mothers? The commission and the court of appeal state that maternity leave allows mothers time to recover from the “physiological and psychological experience” of pregnancy and childbirth. And so only those who have actually gone through that experience are eligible to receive maternity benefits. This means that birth mothers or surrogates who surrender the baby at birth may receive maternity benefits, while those who grow their families in this way may not.

Many adoptive parents take great exception with the laws as they’ve been written and interpreted. Adoptive parents have been fighting for nearly 20 years to receive the same benefits as birth parents. They argue that their children are being shortchanged, since they are not receiving the same chance to bond with their parents. They also point out that while they may not have given birth, there are often additional challenges that accompany adoption.

I’m not sure why the government is holding firm on this. I imagine that there would be some additional costs associated with expanding the program to include adoptive families, but it’s likely a drop in the bucket. As someone who has given birth and suffered serious complications I know that it does take time to recover. However, it’s not as if I gave birth, went away to recover, and then started to parent my children. Certainly by the time my babies were 8 months old (which is when I would have had to return to work if I’d received only parental leave) that was long in the past.

The other countries that I’ve researched, including the UK, Australia and New Zealand, offer nearly identical benefits to adoptive and birth parents. So although Canadian maternity benefits generally compare very favourably with those offered in other countries, for adoptive parents we fall short. The fact that we treat some families differently than others is unfortunate, and a real sticking point for many Canadian families.

After all, a parent is a parent is a parent, no matter how their family came together.

PS – There’s still time to win a diaper bag! Click and read to enter the draw.

Such a Cute Little Carbon Emitter

I’ve been thinking about the environmental impact of having kids. We can take steps to reduce it, but no matter what we do our children are little carbon emitters. Diapers have an environmental impact no matter what kind you use. Manufacturing and distributing baby stuff (and babies have a lot of stuff) uses energy and resources and creates waste. And don’t even get me started on the afternoons when I save my sanity by loading the children into the car and driving until they fall asleep. Clearly, children are environmental disasters in adorable packaging.

There are people who consciously choose not to have children, or who limit their family size, for environmental reasons. And they have a point, they really do. The world’s population is increasing rapidly, and our resources are not. If we all have big families, we’ll be in real trouble. We may already be in big trouble as it is.

Now here is where I lose my green street cred. I honestly did not even consider the environmental implications of having these babies. It may be the worst thing I could have done from an ecological standpoint, but I don’t lose any sleep over it. Nor would I if I were to have more. And why not? Because what’s the point of saving the planet, if not for the people living in it?

Perhaps the planet as a whole would be much better off if humans vanished altogether. But I’m not really interested in the planet as a whole, I’m interested in humanity. I want to find better ways to live, I want to reduce my carbon footprint, I want to reduce the amount of waste I produce for my children. For your children. For everyone’s children. I want to create a better world so that those who come after me can enjoy it, not so that the trees can thrive in peace.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t care about plants or animals. I do. And in fact, I think that we have common interests. It’s not as if we can destroy the entire ecosystem and preserve ourselves. So I make choices that I think benefit all species, in an effort to create a better future for my own.

So, knowing that my children are little carbon emitters, what do I do to green up my child rearing? Here are a few choices that I’ve made:

Breastfeed – No energy to manufacture or transport, no packaging to throw away, no preparation required.

Cloth diaper – It’s reduced my garbage output substantially, although it does still have an environmental impact in terms of laundering.

Swap and hand-me-down – I’ve traded clothes with a mom friend, and it brings back memories and makes me smile to see her little girl wearing Hannah’s old clothes. And it’s green, too.

Buy second-hand – There are some great consignment and thrift stores out there that have great stuff, often never even used. And don’t forget craigslist and local swap meets. Cheap and green.

Buy natural toys – These toys are thoughtfully produced, using natural and sustainable materials. They generally have little or no packaging, and often come from small business people.

Reduce altogether – Experienced moms will tell you that a lot of the baby gear we buy is unnecessary. You probably don’t really need a playpen, bouncy chair, baby swing, exersaucer, and jolly jumper.

Buy local – Shipping items from halfway around the world emits a lot of carbon. Feeding your kids local food, or buying locally made toys and clothes, reduces your carbon footprint. And it also contributes to a sustainable local economy.

So that is my environmental manifesto. I don’t feel remotely guilty for having my babies. But I am trying to create a better world for them to live in. I’m not sure that I’m a model environmentalist, but I’m trying, and that’s all that any of us can do. So, what do you do to reduce the carbon footprint of your little angels?

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